ASEAN marketers say “agencies cannot hold on to their best people”

Marketers in the region are not very happy with their agency partners.

According to a survey done by WFA, the need to improve capabilities in agencies was identified by many, with PR performing worst, followed by creative and digital. The main challenges with these agencies included a rapid turnover in staff with 61% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement that “agencies cannot hold on to their best people”.

Meanwhile 63% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “there are plenty of very exciting new agency start-ups emerging”. The survey hence attributed the same churn in agencies creating new potential partners in emerging areas, such as social and content where traditional agencies have not been as quick to adapt. Local agencies are also regarded as having a superior understanding of local business issues compared to international entrants.

Nonetheless, the media and marketing research partners have kept their clients satisfied with 54% of survey respondents describing these agencies as good or excellent.

Marketers in the region broadly felt that they were on top of areas such as design, brand positioning and shopper/point of sale marketing but, coincidently, these are areas less affected by the move to digital. They are quick to point out that they need to quickly optimise their digital transformation strategies and improve in areas such as generating consumer insights, integrated activity planning, innovation, digital marketing and marketing analytics.

The main challenges come from areas such as media, creative and digital. Nearly 58% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “the lack of robust media audience data is preventing from investing more” and 36% agreed or strongly agreed that it was “impossible to accurately measure ROMI in the market/region”.

“Getting these three areas right is essential in terms of understanding behavior on fast-changing consumer platforms and creating content and experiences that work on digital screens,” said the study

In ASEAN, most companies are using on average five different tools to measure return on marketing investment with internal sales data at 79%, brand tracking at 74% and media tracking, also at 74%, the most common.

When comparing results against the same survey from other regions, Southeast Asian marketers are less bullish than their Latin American counterparts when it comes to generating actionable consumer insights, the capability to deliver effective marketing solutions and understand return on media and marketing investment.

“This is likely to be cultural; ASEAN is a region of great complexity and little homogeneity. Such rapid changes might reflect the fact that no one ever feels they are fully on top of the challenges,” read the report.

“ASEAN is a fast-moving and fast-changing region with multiple markets and multiple ethnicities. Managing digital transformation in such a complex part of the world challenges even the very best marketers. The winners will be those that effectively deliver innovation, achieve data understanding and maintain brand relevance with diverse target groups while accessing regionally relevant experiences, insights and case studies,” said Ranji David, marketing director, Asia at the WFA.

The findings are based on a survey of more than 100 marketers representing 65 companies, which spend in excess of US$54 billion globally. The results have been released by the WFA ahead of Global Marketer Week (#GMWKL).

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